Now that an increasing amount of smartphone manufacturers are selling their phones at cheaper price points, it’s much easier for consumers to afford an off-contract device rather than purchasing one with a two-year contract. At least in the United States, the way smartphones are priced has changed dramatically, and that’s a good thing.

So, what are the best smartphones out there for those who’d like to forgo the standard contract and buy unlocked? We’re here to take you through the best unlocked Android smartphones for under $250, under $500 and over $500. As always, if you have anything you’d like to suggest, be sure to speak up in the comment section at the bottom of the post.

Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list regularly as new devices launch. It’s also worth noting that this article is written for a U.S.-centric point of view, though (since they are unlocked) pretty much all of these devices are available outside of the U.S., at least in some capacity.


Best phones under $250

Moto G5 Plus

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If you’re in the market for an affordable, unlocked smartphone for under $250, look no further. Lenovo’s Moto G5 Plus is one of the best cheap Android phones on the market, and for good reason.

The 1080p display is vibrant and perfect for watching YouTube videos and surfing the web, and the big 3,000 mAh battery will help keep you going all day long. Plus, with the Snapdragon 625 processor coupled with 2-4 GB of RAM, this thing can basically handle everything you throw at it.

And for those of you interested in a bare-bones software experience, you’ll be happy to hear that the G5 Plus runs a very slimmed-down version of Android 7.0 Nougat.

The Moto G5 Plus is reliable, sleek, and inexpensive. What more could you want?

Specs

  • 5.2-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 424 ppi
  • 2.0 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor
  • 2/3/4 GB of RAM
  • 32/64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 150.2 x 74 x 7.7 mm, 155 g

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Buy now from Amazon

Honor 6X

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If you’re looking for a phone under $250, you should definitely check out the Honor 6X. With its big 5.5-inch 1080p display, long-lasting battery, metal construction, dual-SIM support and super fast fingerprint sensor, the 6X gives many other budget phones a run for their money.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this device is its rear-facing dual camera setup, which features 12 and 2 MP sensors. While every dual-camera setup utilizes the secondary camera differently, the 6X uses the 2 MP sensor to capture depth information that can be taken advantage of when using the camera’s wide aperture mode.

This phone isn’t perfect, though. It doesn’t come with USB Type-C support, EMUI is a little unpolished, and the device’s bottom-firing speaker isn’t the greatest. If you can get past those few caveats, though, the Honor 6X might be well worth your money.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 403 ppi
  • Octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 655 processor
  • 3/4 GB of RAM
  • 32/64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • Dual 12 and 2 MP rear cameras, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,340 mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 150.9 x 76.2 x 8.2 mm, 162 g

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Buy now from Amazon

Moto G4 Plus

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Instead of announcing just one Moto G variant this year, Lenovo brought us three different devices – the Moto G4 Plus, Moto G4 and Moto G4 Play.

The highest-end of the bunch is the Moto G4 Plus, and it brings a handful of notable improvements to the Moto G range. It has a big 1080p display, capable processor, expandable storage, and even a fingerprint sensor this time around. While we had a slight problem with the volume/power buttons and the camera in low light, we can honestly say this is one of the best budget offerings in 2016.

Right now you can buy it in the U.S. for $249.99 through Amazon or Motorola.com.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 401 ppi
  • Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor
  • 2/3/4 GB of RAM
  • 16/32/64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 16 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 153 x 76.6 x 9.8 mm, 155 g

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Buy now from Amazon

Best phones under $500

OnePlus 3T

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We weren’t expecting OnePlus to release another new flagship in 2016, but it happened. If you were a fan of the OnePlus 3, you’ll certainly love the OnePlus 3T.

With its powerful Snapdragon 821 processor backed by 6 GB of RAM, the 3T absolutely flies through web browsing, gaming and most other everyday tasks. It also has a bigger battery this time around (3,400 mAh to be exact), which is more than enough to get you through a full day of use on a single charge. In addition, the 3T now sports 16MP rear and front-facing camera sensors, a dual-SIM card slot, plenty of on-board storage, and a fast front-facing fingerprint sensor on the front.

Basically the OnePlus 3T is a better OnePlus 3, and we’re certainly not complaining. You can buy it from OnePlus’ website in Gunmetal, Soft Gold, and Midnight Black color options.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch Optic AMOLED display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 401 ppi
  • 2.35GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
  • 6 GB of RAM
  • 64/128 GB of on-board storage, no microSD card expansion
  • 16 MP rear camera, 16 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,400 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35 mm, 158 g

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Buy now from OnePlus

ZTE Axon 7

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ZTE’s Axon Pro from 2015 was a good phone, but it fell short in a few key areas. It came to market with only one storage option, no expandable memory, and the dual camera setup on the back of the device felt a bit gimmicky. Not only does the company’s latest flagship fix all of those problems, it brings much more to the table.

It has a big 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED display, the latest Snapdragon processor, plenty of RAM, multiple storage options, and yes, expandable memory up to 256 GB. It also sports some killer front-facing speakers, all-day battery life, a great camera, and a sleek, attractive design. While certain parts of the software could use a little more polish, the ZTE Axon 7 goes toe-to-toe with the best in the Android market. It’s also inexpensive at only $400, making this an even more attractive option for folks looking to score a solid flagship device.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch AMOLED display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 538 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
  • 4/6 GB of RAM
  • 64/128 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 20 MP front camera, 8 MP rear camera
  • Non-removable 3,250 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 151.7 x 75 x 7.9 mm, 175 g

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Buy now from Amazon

Best phones above $500

Google Pixel and Pixel XL

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Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL are here, and they truly are some amazing smartphones.

Not only are they the first phones to ship with the Google Assistant on board, they also come with plenty of exclusive software features and some of the best smartphone cameras in existence.

Under the hood, they sport some killer specs, too. Both devices have an AMOLED display, a Snapdragon 821 processor, 4 GB of RAM, plenty of on-board storage and long-lasting batteries. The overall design of these phones may not be the most unique, but they do feel like premium phones through and through.

There are a few things about these phones that will turn some people away, though. For starters, they only sport an IP53 rating for dust and water resistance, meaning they’re not nearly as waterproof as the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. There are ways around that, but none that will make the devices truly waterproof. Plus, if you buy the Verizon model, you’ll have to deal with a small amount of bloatware (though you will be able to uninstall it), you won’t be able to unlock the bootloader, and Verizon will be handling all Pixel and Pixel XL software updates (though the company swears it won’t delay them).

If you’re in the market for a new flagship Android phone and don’t mind spending over $650, you should buy the Pixel or Pixel XL… these are two of the best Android phones out there.

Specs

Google Pixel

  • 5.0-inch AMOLED display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 441 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32/128 GB of on-board storage, no microSD expansion
  • 12.3 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2,770 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1 Nougat
  • 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.6 mm, 143 g

Google Pixel XL

  • 5.5-inch AMOLED display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 534 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32/128 GB of on-board storage, no microSD expansion
  • 12.3 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,450 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1 Nougat
  • 154.7 x 75.7 x 8.6 mm, 168 g

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Buy now from the Google Store

Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge

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Samsung did a killer job with their 2015 flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. Design-wise, many would say those two phones were close to perfect. The company forwent a plastic design and instead included glass front and back panels with an aluminum frame. They weren’t without their flaws, though. The S6 and S6 Edge didn’t offer expandable storage or removable batteries — two features Samsung has been known to include in all its smartphones for years.

Now the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have made their way to the masses, and they fix many of the problems the S6 line introduced last year. While they don’t offer removable batteries, Samsung included expandable storage on both handsets in case the 32 GB of on-board storage isn’t enough. Samsung mostly stuck to the same design this time around, though they did shrink down the camera bumps on the back and made the devices a little thicker to make room for larger batteries.

In terms of specs, these are top-of-the-line smartphones. They come with Quad HD Super AMOLED displays, Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processors, 4 GB of RAM, great 12 MP rear-facing cameras and run the latest version of Android. Instead of featuring the same screen sizes this time around though, Samsung kept the S7 at a smaller 5.1 inches, while the S7 Edge has been bumped up to a larger 5.5-inch panel.

Seriously, these are some incredible smartphones. They are a little pricey, but all in all, we think the high asking price is worth it.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S7

  • 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 577 ppi
  • Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 200 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm, 152 g

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

  • 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 534 ppi
  • Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 200 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,600 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm, 157 g

Read more

Buy the Galaxy S7 from Amazon
Buy the Galaxy S7 Edge from Amazon

Huawei Mate 9

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Huawei has done a great job at making its way to the mainstream over the past few years – first with the Huawei P9, and now with the Mate 9.

With a big 5.9-inch display, powerful Kirin 960 processor, dual-SIM capabilities, and an impressive camera setup, the Mate 9 may be one of the best big phones of the year. While its display is ‘only’ 1080p and its software is a bit odd sometimes, we still think the high price tag is worth it. If you’re after a smartphone that offers exceptional battery life and incredible performance, the standard Mate 9 delivers in spades. If money is no object and you want a smartphone that is unattainable to most customers, the Porsche Design Mate 9 might be worth your while.

Specs

  • 5.9-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 373 ppi
  • Octa-core Hisilicon Kirin 960 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • Dual 20 and 12 MP rear cameras, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 4,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 156.9 x 78.9 x 7.9 mm, 190 g

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Buy now from Amazon

HTC 10

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HTC needed a saving grace this year, and the 10 just may be it. The Taiwanese company finally designed a phone that’s different enough from its predecessor yet still sports a familiar design language. With an all-metal chassis, front-mounted fingerprint sensor and a new-and-improved speaker setup, the HTC 10 easily made its way to our best Android phones list.

Under the hood, the 10 comes with some killer specs. A 5.2-inch Quad HD display, Snapdragon 820 processor and 4 GB of RAM are in line with most other flagships this year, and it also comes with expandable storage up to 200 GB and a 3,000 mAh battery that will have no problems lasting an entire day on a single charge. HTC also improved the camera this time around, which was a big flaw in last year’s One M9 flagship.

All in all, the HTC 10 is an awesome device. Great specs and a solid build quality are what you’ll get here… what more could you ask for?

Specs

  • 5.2-inch Super LCD5 display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 565 ppi
  • 2.15 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32/64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 200 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 145.9 x 71.9 x 9 mm, 161 g

Read more

Buy now from HTC

There you have it – our picks of the best unlocked Android phones you can buy right now. Missed anything? Tell us in the comments!

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